DELAPLAINE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
These three cases arose out of a collision on York Road between a convertible Ford coupe owned and driven by Herbert E. Dean, age 23, of Baltimore County, one of the plaintiffs, and a tractor-trailer owned by York Motor Express Company, defendant, and operated by Edward E. Donnelly, age 25, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The accident happened on February 26, 1948, about 2:30 a.m. Dean was seriously injured, and William Patrick Hawk, a passenger in his automobile, was killed.
The testimony of Dean and Donnelly, the only eyewitnesses of the accident, was in irreconcilable conflict, and resort was had to the testimony of witnesses describing the location of the vehicles and the marks and debris on the road after the accident. From this testimony the jury found that Donnelly was negligent, but Dean was not, and awarded a verdict in each case in favor of plaintiff against York Motor Express Company.
In the suit brought by John Lutchko, administrator of Hawk's estate, to recover funeral expenses, the jury rendered a verdict for $300.
In Dean's suit for damages, the jury awarded $2,500.
Defendant, appealing here from the judgments entered upon the verdicts, complains of the trial judge's refusal to enter judgments n.o.v.
The vehicles collided on a sharp curve between two hills about three miles north of Parkton in Baltimore County. Dean was driving north toward York, Donnelly south toward Baltimore. Dean testified that while he was driving downgrade at a speed of not more than 30 miles an hour, he saw the headlights of defendant's tractor-trailer coming down the next hill. He estimated that it was traveling at a speed of between 50 and 60 miles per hour, and when it was about 200 feet away it swerved across the center line but went back, and when about 100 feet away it came across the line again, and this time the tractor crashed into his car while the trailer "jackknifed" toward the tractor at an angle of 45 degrees.
On the contrary, Donnelly testified that the Ford coupe hit the tractor-trailer west of the white center line. He claimed that as there had been a drizzling rain during the night, the road was wet and slippery, and he applied his brakes gently, fearing that if he tried to stop suddenly the trailer would "jackknife." But he said that the trailer broke loose from the tractor, and he could not then apply the brakes, as the air hose broke when the trailer became disconnected. According to one of the police officers, the tractor went more than 100 feet into the field on the east side of the road. The trailer turned over and landed on top of the rear end of the Ford, which stopped in the center of the road, with its front east of the center line and its rear west of it.
First of all, we have Dean's positive testimony that he did not cross the white center line, and that Donnelly while driving the tractor-trailer at high speed suddenly swerved across the line, thereby causing the collision. Next, we have testimony as to the size and weight of the tractor-trailer. It was a large and heavy truck, 8 feet wide and 35 feet in length, and weighing over four tons, and carrying a load of more than ten tons. It is common knowledge that it has been the tendency in recent years to increase the size and weight of trucks used on the public highways. In cases arising from collisions, the size and weight of such vehicles are important factors in determining questions of negligence. The drivers of these vehicles, having knowledge of their width and length, owe to other motorists on the highway the duty to take these elements into consideration in the operation of their vehicles. The fact that some vehicles are of a greater size or weight than the average car gives them no additional rights on the highways. Every motorist is required to exercise ordinary care in the operation of
Further, we have the testimony as to the foggy atmospheric condition and the slippery condition of the road and the inability of the truck driver to explain how the tractor and trailer became disconnected. Evidence of bad atmospheric conditions existing at the time of an accident, such as fog, is admissible as bearing upon the range and extent of visibility as well as upon the degree of care and caution that should be exercised by motorists under such conditions. While the skidding of an automobile is not of itself so unusual as to furnish evidence of the driver's negligence, nevertheless the speed of the automobile prior to the skidding and the care in handling it, particularly in the application of the brakes, are factors to be considered in determining whether or not there was an exercise of due care. The driver of a car must exercise unusual care to keep it under control on a slippery road, so as not to cause injury to any other vehicle by skidding into it, particularly where the car is being driven on a grade or curve, or where it is traveling at a considerable speed. The degree of care to be exercised by a motorist in a fog varies with the conditions of the fog, the highway, and the traffic, and may be affected by the type, size and weight of the vehicle. Peasley v. White, 129 Me. 450, 152 A. 530, 73 A.L.R. 1017.
We are asked to reverse the judgments on the ground that Dean's version of the accident is so contrary to physical law and so unbelievable that it should not be accorded any probative value. Appellant contends that Dean's testimony should be rejected as incredible in view of the location of (1) the dual-tire marks on the dirt shoulder on the west side of the road, (2) the "gouge" marks, evidently cut into the road by metal, and (3) the broken glass and other debris under and near the vehicles. Appellant contends that the dual-tire marks indicate that the collision occurred on the west side of the road where the tire marks ended, and that the
We, of course, accept the rule that the court should disregard any testimony that attempts to establish something physically impossible within common knowledge and experience, or something contrary to indisputable scientific principles or laws of nature within the court's judicial knowledge. Commissioners for Anne Arundel County v. Vanskiver, 166 Md. 481, 483, 171 A. 705; Seiwell v. Hines, 273 Pa. 259, 116 A. 919, 21 A.L.R. 139; Lamp v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 305 Pa. 520, 158 A. 269, 84 A.L.R. 1217. This rule is applied whenever a witness with good eyesight testifies that in broad daylight he looked for an approaching car but did not see any, although one was within his unobstructed view at the time. Baltimore Transit Co. v. Young, 189 Md. 428, 435, 56 A.2d 140; Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. State, for Use of Andrews, 190 Md. 227, 58 A.2d 243. We emphasize, however, that the court should use special caution before deciding to reject testimony on the ground that it is contrary to the laws of science, inasmuch as it is so often difficult to determine accurately the effect of such laws. As the Court observed in Stokes v. Metropolitan
Appellant relied on the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors in Mlynar v. A.H. Merriman & Sons, 114 Conn. 647, 159 A. 658. In that case the plaintiff claimed that, while he was driving southwardly on the west side of the road, the defendant's milk truck was driven suddenly across the road directly into the path of his car. It was conclusively established, however, that the truck driver had been driving along the dirt shoulder west of the traveled portion of the road, stopping frequently to deliver milk, and that at the time of the collision the truck was parked along the curb entirely off the traveled portion of the road. It was also established by uncontradicted testimony that immediately after the accident the truck was still on the dirt shoulder close to the curb. Thus it was clear that the plaintiff's testimony that the truck was driven across the street into his car was incredible.
The difference between the Connecticut case and the case before us is apparent. Here both of the vehicles were rapidly moving. The tractor-trailer was coming
Because of the rapidity of the motion of the vehicles both before and after the collision, and the many uncertainties in the testimony, and in view of the fact that a collision could have been caused if either the tractor or the trailer crossed the center line but for a moment and for only a short distance, it cannot be judicially declared that the location of the marks and debris on the road show that Dean's testimony is incredible. It is, therefore, our opinion that Dean's testimony and the additional testimony from which negligence may be inferred were legally sufficient for submission to the jury.
Judgments affirmed, with costs.